As believers, we reach the nations because Jesus is worthy of the praise of the nations. Also, according to Acts 17, the Lord has moved the nations to us that they may know and worship Him. Personally, we reach the nations as a married couple because the Lord currently has us in Raleigh, N.C., while also giving us a desire to be among the nations living and proclaiming the gospel.
For us, it all started with our decision to live among the nations in a predominately refugee apartment complex. For three-and-a-half years, we had the privilege of living among families from all over the world. We had the joy of partnering with believers from many churches for the same goal of building relationships with our neighbors and meeting practical needs while living and proclaiming the gospel to them.
Every day was unpredictable and spontaneous but had so much potential for joy. Every knock at the door was a test to our faith — are we going to count the cost to serve Jesus and love our neighbor, no matter how long this knock at the door may take?
Honestly, we did not always answer that question in a godly way, nor did we always have the best attitudes as we answered those knocks. But every time we did, the Lord sanctified us through it and used us to bless our neighbor in some tangible way.
Early on, Derek joined another young man in leading a Bible study with some of the middle and high school boys who live at the apartment complex. Through playing soccer with them throughout the week, eating a meal with them every Friday night and walking through Scripture with them, we came to know these boys and be able to invest in their lives and the lives of their family members.
Those relationships along with those that Kimberlee was building through a women’s English as a second language class and through an onsite tutoring program gave us the credibility and trust we needed to both live out the gospel and proclaim it to these families.
This was not always easy. It often meant walking through some really hard situations with families, which included having hard conversations to make sure children were being cared for. Sometimes it meant acting as mediator between child protection services and a family. Sometimes it meant providing or organizing meals because food stamps ran out.
There were also the seemingly tedious tasks of editing research papers, calling insurance companies, helping fill out tax forms and job applications, all of which we came to realize provided the building blocks that have opened the door for us to share Jesus.
Now we live about 10 minutes away from our precious friends, many of whom have become like family. Family that babysits our daughter so we can serve in certain ministry capacities that would otherwise not be possible. Family that shares meals with us and welcomes us into their home while also joining us around our table. Family that sits on the floor drinking tea discussing the hard things in their lives while also asking about our lives.
Those three-and-a-half years of being neighbors have churned out an investment far greater than we could have ever hoped. They have given us family.
Derek still leads the weekly boys’ Bible study and is seeing fruit from that as the boys ask hard questions regarding how theology meets both high school life and tough family situations. Kimberlee watched our former next-door neighbor, who is of Muslim background, crave the Word of God in a way that challenges my own faith.
These gospel opportunities would not have happened had we not “plowed the field” for those three-and-a-half years. We all need people who care for us holistically, and refugees are no different.
Be mindful, this harvest field will likely require a lot of plowing. There are no shortcuts to building relationships, especially with those who have experienced the trauma that is so consistent among refugees. But take heart, God has brought them here, and they are eager for relationships.
There is greater joy than you can imagine in knowing, loving and sharing Christ with those whom you will soon call family.